Bill James, the leading sabermetrician of our time, has been hard at work on his 2011 Bill James Handbook , in which he releases projections for players.
As with all projections, James was way off on several players in his 2010 projections, but hit some on the nose and came close to many.
As James writes, it's inevitable that projections miss on some players. After all, who could have expected Jose Bautista to slam 54 home runs?
But for the most part, projections do come close to approximating what a player will do. So let's dive in and check out what Bill James thinks of several players.
Pedro Alvarez (photo, right): The Pirates rookie got his major-league career off to a decent start in 2010, finishing at .256/.326/.461 with 16 HR. Meanwhile, Buster Posey makes Pittsburgh look silly for plucking Alvarez and Tampa Bay idiots for taking shortstop Tim Beckham. However, the Bucs may just end up loving Alvarez in 2011. James has him down for 27 home runs and 103 RBI, hitting .277/.352/.501. Sounds pretty good.
Jose Bautista : So, his his power surge for real or is there a reason Bautista never topped 16 home runs in a season before? James thinks it's for real and tabs Bautista for 34 blasts in 2011. Makes sense, as Bautista was hitting somewhat over his head and pitchers will have a better understanding of how to pitch him. He should finish at .251/.355/.509.
Josh Beckett: Boston will have plenty of reasons to be happy with its rotation next year. After Josh Beckett struggled to a 5.78 ERA in 21 starts, James feels Beckett will rebound to post a 3.86 ERA in 26 games. Couple that with John Lackey 's 33 starts of a 3.89 ERA and Daisuke Matsuzaka finding a way to overcome 73 walks for a 3.85 ERA, and you suddenly have a deep rotation that has Jon Lester up top and Clay Buchholz. An ace followed by four No. 2-3 starters? Yes please.
Adrian Beltre : Beltre re-established his value and much more in Boston, where he put Seattle and his failures therein behind him to hit .321/.365/.553. But was that just a contract-year push? Kind of. Beltre won't sniff being an MVP candidate again, as James says, but should still be worth every dollar afer hitting .283/.335/.477 in 2011.
Ryan Braun : When someone hits 33 home runs, scores 108 runs and drives in 114, that's got to be a pretty good MVP candidate. Except that Braun's 2011 projected totals may not be enough to overtake teammate Prince Fielder , who has 41 blasts projected to his name with 100 runs and 114 RBI. He's expected to hit .276/.396/.541 with Braun at .310/.372/.551.
Domonic Brown : One concern the Phillies have is how well Dominic Brown can step into the large shoes that will be vacated by Jayson Werth. Well, no problem: Brown's on pace to hit 26 homers and go .288/.346/.505. Next step for Philadelphia: finding a right-handed bat to break up Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Brown.
Roy Halladay (photo, right): A perfect game, postseason no-hitter and 2.44 ERA later and Halladay has nothing left to prove in the NL. James does see a step backwards, however, to the horrifying high of a 3.16 ERA. That ERA certainly figures to go under 3.00, but it's impossible to project anyone landing below a 3.00 ERA which is why Halladay lands at 3.16. He has compatriots Cole Hamels with a 3.45 projected ERA and Roy Oswalt at 3.38. Sounds like another NL East Division title is en route to Philly.
Derek Jeter : So, will Jeter rebound from his .270/.340/.370 showing in 2010 and be worth whatever ridiculous deal the Yankees give him in the offseason? Well, James does see a bounceback -- but his days as a legitimate All-Star are done. (Of course, he'll still be elected.) Jetes should end up at .295/.365/.410 as James guesses, not that far off from what Jeter put up in 2008.
Cliff Lee : Lee is going to make a lot of money in 2011. But interested teams may want to take a look at James' projected ERA and back away slightly. At 3.50, he would still be a good pitcher, but not great nor sublime as he has been thus far. He finished 2010 with a 3.18 ERA, 2009 with 3.22 and 2008 with 2.54, so it takes quite a leap to think Lee would go up to 3.50. A projected 49 walks will do that, even though he had an unimaginable 18 in 2010. (43 in 2009.)
Tim Lincecum : The Freak draws the honor of the lowest projected ERA, at an even 3.00 while striking out 233 batters. Lincecum will be looking to take back the Cy Young title from projected winner Roy Halladay, and so far it looks like Bill James is giving him the nod for 2011.
Jesus Montero : Do we have an early candidate for Rookie of the Year? James has Jesus Montero putting up huge numbers as a 21-year-old in the majors, banging 21 home runs and hitting .285/.348/.519. Hard to beat those numbers and power, especially at Montero's age. The only comparable is Michael Stanton.
David Ortiz : Well, even James himself can't know if Ortiz will get a third straight season off to a bad start, but regardless, Big Papi is expected to finish with 33 home runs and 112 RBI. That would be the most home runs hit since 2007 (he finished 2010 with 32). It would also be a high in RBI since 2007, along with batting average. If Ortiz can pull that line off, he'll be in line for a nice payday as a free agent.
Mike Stanton (photo, right): Stanton has already put baseball on notice as a 20-year-old. So what the heck is he to do in 2011 with a full season of playing time? That's easy -- 38 home runs. The only knock against Stanton will be that his plate discipline isn't advanced enough, leading to a .268/.335/.556 line. If he can eventually learn to take enough pitches and get the batting average over .280, he could be a mega-star.
Brian Wilson : Currently busy trying to propel the Giants to the World Series, Wilson at least can rest easy in the idea that James has him leading all closers in saves next season. He's expected to nail down 48 saves with a 3.04 ERA. The save total is exactly the same as what he ended up with in 2010, but the ERA was lower at 1.81. An xFIP of 2.99, however, backs up the projected 3.04 ERA.
-- Evan Brunell
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